Late one night I was trawling the internet for inspiration as most tech writers do and stumbled across this article from The Verge. The title got me thinking, when was the last time a manufacturer brought out a good flip QWERTY Android phone or even one at all? I’m not talking about the BlackBerry Q10-esque keyboard squeezed into a portrait orientation, even though I quite like the BlackBerry keyboards nothing will ever beat a proper flip/slide out full QWERTY keyboard.
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From the day I reviewed the very old Motorola Milestone as the first android device I ever touched, I knew that the QWERTY slideout keyboard had its place in the Android ecosystem. With the vast scope of things I do with my phone: prolific user of Whatsapp, addicted tweeter and needing to take down notes when inspiration strikes for the next opinion or feature, nothing could compare to the QWERTY keyboard. Eventually I had my chance to review the HTC Desire Z, an amazing phone in its own right, with a special Z-hinge instead of a traditional slide out and with a better layout than the Milestone, I thought that things could NOT get better than this for QWERTY keyboard phones. That’s when they stopped coming. In an ecosystem where the first phone was a flip out QWERTY, it looked like it was going touch screen only for the future.
In the wake of the dwindling slide out QWERTY phones, we were getting larger screens, clearer displays, amazing (and some less so) cameras, curved bodies and even strange fingerprint sensors on our devices. I asked a BlackBerry user, why he still used blackberry and the answer was a very quick “because of the keyboard”.
That got me thinking; With HTC’s recent One Max launch which was lacklustre to say the least due to the silly price point for a gimmick that in all honesty, I disabled after an hour and a camera that I was less than impressed with, would it not have made more sense to carry on in the light of the desire Z with a HTC One Z? The One Max is a very heavy and thick device, what if instead of a fingerprint scanner, it was designed with a slide out QWERTY? Would it be a better seller? One thing is for sure, I’d give it less of a dismissive wave when it rears its RM2,499 price tag. Since BlackBerry users are very much about the keyboards, would a QWERTY keyboard Android device, now with BBM anyway, be the answer to switching over?
Perhaps the takeaway to this would be that instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with new concepts like a rear fingerprint scanner like the One Max, a curved body like the LG and Samsung phones or a fancy “Ultrapixel” camera like the HTC One family why not refine and revive the QWERTY keyboard? I’ve used so many software keyboards and while Swiftkey and the iPhone Keyboard are great, nothing beat my experience with a portrait orientation QWERTY.
Besides, who didn’t want a T-Mobile Sidekick when you saw how it could be whipped out with such flair!
What do you think? Should QWERTY keyboards make a comeback on Android phones?